tv Mosaic World News LINKTV August 23, 2012 11:30am-12:00pm PDT
narrator: on the outskirts of ciudad juarez, mexico, is a squatters' settlement called anapra. in 1980, this was empty desert. by the 1990s, tens of thousands of residents have staked out small plots and constructed makeshift homes. most tie into the power lines illegally and run lamp wires over the sand to light their homes. 1994-- we visit concha martinez for the first time, living in this tarpaper shack.
like thousands of her neighbors, she has no running water or sewers, no title to her land. a single mother, concha built this one-room home for herself and her four children: abel, 12, adrian, ten, wendy, five, and the youngest, alexi. their incredible struggle, and a ten-ar story of this place, will illuminate some key geography themes, including: scale has several meanings in geography. one is very specific, having to do with ratios of distance on a map to actual distance on the ground. but it also has a more intuitive meaning related to the size of the area in question. let's call this view of anapra a "neighborhood scale."
at this scale, you see a one- sided picture of ciudad juarez. let's zoom back on this satellite image to something we'll call a "metropolitan scale." here, on the other side of the city is a very different neighborhood. this community is called the campestre, and it's an elite enclave housing wealthy business families... walls and gates... dogs and guards. only the housekeepers and gardeners park on the street. a lot of these laborers live in the squatters' settlement at anapra. so here are two very new neighborhoods. one is rich, the other poor. to understand why they evolved where they did, we have to explore another geographic theme called relative location. here, the geography of wealth is about proximity. the green lawns of the houses and country club
when we zoom to a more local scale and add this line, the dynamics become clrer. this is the border with the united states in el paso, texas. the maquiladoras are very close to it. a big pa of the quas'vaag tirocn relaveo s. marke and mexicaces the maquiladoras inexpensive labor. it. before the north american free trade agreement, or nafta, mexican laws required that the maquiladoras locate within 12 miles of the border. it's a very short truck ride to some rather long lines at u.s. customs. despite this minor inconvenience, relative location explains why the plants are right here. but to truly understand their impact on mexico and the u.s., you have to change scale again. mi nombre es imelda rodriguez y soy originaria del estado de durango. translator: i come from the state of durango, and i make $60 a week.
narrator: durango is hundreds of miles south. you have to look at a national scale to see that $60 is high by mexican standards. it's enough to draw thousands of migrants north from even poorer areas in the interior. many of these migrants homestead in anapra, while their bosses live comfortably in the campestre. the maquiladoras assemble goods just south of the u.s. border for shipment back to continental scale markets in north america-- such is the power of place. it almost worked for concha martinez, who, instead, faced catastrophe. bueno, mira, yo soy de tepic. translator: i come from tepic, about 800 miles to the south. i came to juarez three years ago on vacation with my family, but my husband ran off with another woman and left me alone with three children and one on the way.
narrator: she had no money and no marketable skills. ...pues, es que en la desesperación de que no... translator: in my desperation at not being able to feed my children, i would have taken a job in a maquiladora or done whatever job was necessary. but, unfortunately, the maquila would not hire me because they did a urine analysis and discovered that i was pregnant, so they didn't give me a job. asi supieron que yo estaba embarasada, y no me dieron trabajo. narrator: with fewer options, a desperate mother is forced to think differently about the relative location of the u.s. border. concha set her sights on el paso, texas-- the u.s. twin city of ciudad juarez-- not to migrate, but to commute. in the desert near anapra, concha shows angela part of her three-hour walk over the border. six nights a week for five years,
she has journeyed north, alone in the total darkness. now, at 4:00 a.m., concha prepares to cross again. to ward off rattlesnakes, she crushes garlic and applies it to leg guards made of cigarette cartons. the cigarettes themselves are concealed in concha's clothing. she buys them tax-free in mexico and will try to smuggle them across the border to sell in el paso bars. on a good day, she'll clear about $35.
it would take her three days to make that much in a maquiladora. if all goes well, she will be on the u.s. side right about the time her children are waking up to go to school. for concha and her family, survival depends on crossing the border-- illegally-- almost every night. man: it's a group of three; thought i'd let you know. man 2 ( over radio ): 10-4. we'll meet up on the pipeline road. man: 10-4, 104, looks like they're going to be heading for the pipeline road right there, just east of y'all. narrator: to see in the desert at night, the u.s. border patrol has equipped a truck with heat-sensitive night-vision cameras. officer: all right, hold up... narrator: it's very near where concha crosses. officer: okay, take that road there. narrator: from a hilltop almost two miles away, the agent directs squad cars in the valley to a group of suspected illegals
moving north over the border in the pitch darkness. officer: okay, be advised, they're down there by the tracks right now. they're by the tracks. narrator: here, another geographical construct helps make sense of this nightly drama. it's largely about regions. these mexicans are not just crossing the border of two cities, or even two countries. they are leaving the developing region of latin america to enter the developed region of north america. officer: 10-4, take a left right there, and it looks like you've got them bushed-up. narrator: the border guards' technology peels away the cover of night, revealing the telltale thermal image of these illegals hiding under a bush. officer: they'll be in those bushes right there. busted: undocumented immigrants responding to u.s. demand for cheap mexican labor. this group did not include concha. officer ( over radio ): 10-4, guys-- good job, good job.
narrator: 7:00 a.m. on the u.s. side at concha's rendezvous. did she make it? the border patrol is everywhere. concha never showed up. did they catch her at the border? back in anapra, a neighbor cares for young alexi. the older children got themselves up and off to their own school, here in ciudad juarez. but the fate of these kids-- indeed, their whole society-- is dramatized by proximity.
their school is just a few hundred yards from downtown el paso. in many ways this is a single nation and a single economy. these retail stores near the bridge lure thousands of mexicans each day, who must queue for hours just to apply for a crossing permit. but hundreds who cross illegally, like these men, are caught and discharged back to mexico. there is no sign of concha here, either. like many el paso children, concha's kids go home by bus. but when they pick up young alexi, they find their mother is gone. was she injured in the desert or perhaps detained at the border?
night falls without a trace. ( music and conversation coming from bars ) after searching bars near the border in el paso, we finally found concha, selling cigarettes to the patrons. earlier that morning,she t by the u.s. border patrol crossing into el paso. after being released, she simply turned around and tried again in the evening. but in 1999, concha's luck ran out. after apprehending her yet again with illegal cigarettes, the border patrol finally told her that the next time would mean jail time. afraid of what pson woulmean for her children, conchaook a job in a maquiladora. it's a cut in pay, but a safe, reliable job. gradually, concha martinez hopes to save some money,
obtainhe pmitsnd oay stara legal buness on both sides of the boundary, here in the u.s.-mexican borderland. narrator: regions, relative location and scale help us gain a spatial perspective on places like el paso, texas, and ciudad juarez, mexico. the border between the two countries marks the limits of what geographers call "formal regions"-- places with very clear lines. but as you cross the bridge into texas, you see that the cultural lines are not nearly as sharp. tanny berg owns some retail real estate on el paso street and plays an active role in the life of the community. berg: this street, particularly, has always been a wonderful threshold,
a transition between america and mexico. those of us who are in business on the street, it has always been our intentions to improve the relationships between the united states and mexico-- and, more particularly, between el paso and juarez-- because obviously that interrelationship affords us the opportunity of attracting more customers into our market. narrator: but the flow of culture is two-way. berg has shopped at this same mexican bakery since he was a boy, buying pastries from this man's grandparents. he knows from everyday experience what you cannot see on a simple political map. berg: the el paso/juarez region is really one cohesive region. we have people who have families on both sides of the river-- a dried-up creek bed, we call it a river. but the fact is, there are families that are split up by a political division. man: we were born in this area-- basically across the border, that is, juarez--
and we came here because our relatives are here. narrator: even though this is texas, conditions for david villalobos are similar to those in anapra, mexico. this neighborhood is called a colonia, and like concha martinez, people here have no running water and no secure title to the land they paid for. villalobos: and so we were pursuing the american dream: to get our own piece of land, build our house. narrator: many hispanics have had the same dream, some before this place was even the united states. spanish surnames predominate in el paso-- 75% of the population. the cultural landscape on both sides of the boundary is so similar that geographers refer to a new informal region here as a "borderland"-- an area with characteristics of both formal regions. for instance, this texas church might be anywhere in latin america.
in mexico, maquiladoras now look much like huge u.s. industrial parks. and mixed among mexico's national icons are familiar u.s. brands. at a particular scale, this is a very cohesive region. this borderlands is a place where the most powerful military and economic nation on earth is next to a rapidly developing nation. we are siamese twins. and whether we like each other or not, we are in an economic, political, social, cultural bed together. narrator: so while the formal regions of north and latin america have clear lines, the informal borderlands region is fuzzy and complex. what makes it a problem is the international boundary down the middle. although 23,000 people here cross the border legally each day, 10,000 cross illegally.
with such different levels of economic development on opposite sides of the line, workers who can't get permits required by u.s. law simply respond to the laws of supply and demand. but most do not seek permanent residence. most of the mexican labor that was coming north-- just staying in this el paso region-- performed the duties of perhaps housemaids, or child care, gardening. these were people who basically served functions in el paso and then retreated back into mexico for the evening or for the weekend. narrator: 50% of the illegal crossers are local, like concha martinez, or these men waiting in el paso for temporary employment. at the scale of the borderlands, it's more like commuting. but about 50% of illegal crossers attempt to travel to the u.s. interior. u.s. citizens are angry.
the pressure comes down on the u.s. border patrol. in 1994, the man in charge of el paso is sylvestre reyes. when i first got here, the problem that i saw in this area was a strategy that pretty much guaranteed us to fail at maintaining control of this border. narrator: before 1993, the border patrol more or less looked the other way, allowing people to cross freely. the policy sort of invited the mexicans in for a game of "cat and mouse." the strategy required our officers to be in the neighborhoods here in the el paso area and then try and chase people down after they had made an illegal entry into the metropolitan area of el paso. narrator: sometimes they were captured one by one. sometimes they were rounded up in waves. chief reyes set forth a whole new approach to guarding the border. it's called "operation hold the line." reyes: what we did to adjust, or to compensate, for that
is move all our agents right up on the international line itself, right up here on the rio grande river and maintain a deterrent posture 24 hours a day, seven days a week. narrator: now, every 200 yards or so, a solo agent stands or sits guard, discouraging mexicans before they even try to cross. "operation hold the line" set off a series of effects and countereffects on several different scales. the consensus here now, a year or so later, after the strategy went into effect, is that a controlled, well-managed, well-defined, quiet, tranquil border is much more beneficial for business, for tourism and for both sides of the international community than the chaos and the negative impact that previously existed here. narrator: but not everyone agrees, especially the agents themselves.
i don't think anybody likes to be stationary for eight or nine hours in one single spot. i mean, it's like a chained animal. you might look at it that way. man: when you ask to some agents, could you tell me about, you know, the morale in the force? they tell you it is at an all-time low. "could you tell me about your job satisfaction?" and he says, you know, "what job satisfaction?" that's a common answer. narrator: lots of people don't like their jobs. but when it comes to border security, that's a real problem. since 1994, the number of agents has more than doubled. although the border patrol was reorganized after september 11, 2001, attrition, recruitment and agent morale are still significant problems. "operation hold the line" is very necessary for the federal government, because it allows them to say, "we are maintaining our territorial integrity." but people who want to cross simply go above the line or below the line and cross frey. narrator: one of the places they cross is here.
20 feet beyond the tracks is the mexican border and anapra. since "operation hold the line" started, about 80% of the people trying to gain entry into the united states have started using this area. narrator: thieves stop and rob the trains here, prompting the railroads to hire security guards near anapra. some residents target the border patrol agents with rocks and even guns. to protect the trains and the agents-- and oh, yes, to stop illegal crossings-- the border patrol proposes a 10-mile-long steel fence here. it prompts this reaction from residents of anapra, who compare it to the berlin wall. in 1995, the u.s. government finally builds the fence. they build more fences near other border cities from california to the gulf of mexico. "operation hold the line" has also diffused along the border,
trying to stop illegal crossings. in urban areas, the policy has largely succeeded. but what about the expanse of land between the cities? one of the things that makes the border controllable in the areas that are not developed and that are not easily accessed is the fact that it's a very hostile type environment; you have desert, you have mountains, you have a situation where people are not going to travel long distances and walk long distances just to cross illegally into the united states. narrator: unfortunately, it did not work out that way. here in the desert in the 21st century, several hundred mexicans die from exposurevery year. but still they cross. the deserts simply make it more difficult and dangerous. perhaps a half-million migrants still enter the u.s. illegally each year. $2 billion later, and "operation hold the line"
has not really reduced the total crossings. what's worse, the new, get-tough policy has had an unintended and ironic consequence. to understand it, we have to change scale again. not long ago, primary mexican wage earners ke this man in centralexico fruently tveled rth to work at jobs that north americans don't take at the wages offered. they then returned home with money for their families. they repeated the cycle somewhat easily and often. now, men either stay longer in the u.s. or bring their whole families and move permanently north. it's just too dangerous to cross back and forth as they once did. now, migrants only have to make it once. over nine million unauthorized mexicans may now live in the u.s. that's almost nine percent of the whole mexican nation. so what has the get-tough policy really accomplished?
this family is applying for a temporary visitation permit. they need to show months of utility bills or something else to prove they have sufficient roots in the mexican economy and are therefore not as likely to stay in the u.s. the examiner was not convinced. outside, long lines of people queue for their chance to see an examiner and perhaps get a shopping permit. they reveal a bureaucracy that is underfunded, according to tanny berg. although substantial dollars were and have still been invested in creating more border patrol agents, more vigilance on the border, virtually no new dollars have gone into immigration and naturalization service officials to facilitate now the access by people who heretofore had gone across at the river and now are looking to legitimize their entry. narrator: professor stoddard suggests we look at europe
for a way to meet the demand for labor and still protect our borders. they have guest worker programs. when the iignt comes to your country, you simply register him. he is now a guest in your country. he has no rights of citizenship. what he has is the rights to be treated like a human being and the dignity to work. narrator: in 2001, the u.s. and mexico were discussing a program to allow guest workers to move back and forth more easily. after september 11, border talks stalled amid concerns about homeland security. ironically, both countries may now have the worst of both worlds. a policy designed to stop illegal crossings has not only accelerated them, but encouraged thousands to move here permanently. a spatial perspective could help policy makers and the rest of us understand the changing realities of relative location. only by exploring different regions at different scales